How to Connect Laptop Hard Drive to Desktop via USB & Motherboard?

Although laptops and desktop computers are intrinsically the same in their function, they differ in terms of the size or type of their hardware components. 

These differences can be a limitation when connecting a laptop hard drive to the desktop. Just a heads up for you that the consequences can be quite unpleasant if the compatibility is not taken care of. 

To begin with, the motherboard of the desktop computer should be IDE and SATA compatible. Also, the OS of the desktop and laptop should be compatible. The rest you’ll find out as you proceed through this guide. 

For now, let’s see how to connect a laptop hard drive to a desktop computer.

Methods to Connect Laptop Hard Drive to Desktop 

Before starting, ensure that your laptop hard drive is an IDE and SATA drive because we don’t want you to end up with terrible consequences. If it is an IDE drive then, good for you because it will only take a couple of minutes to set up a connection between your laptop hard drive and desktop. 

Anyway, there are 2 common ways to connect a laptop hard drive with desktop:

  1. Via USB
  2. Directly via motherboard

It is possible to form a connection in either way. However, when doing so via USB, you’ll only have to deal with things externally instead of having to open up the CPU and reassembling it once you’re done. 

Anyway, we’ll be explaining both the methods below so let’s get right into it. 

  1. Via USB 

The laptop hard drives can be connected to the desktop by making an external connection. This external connection can be made by using various adapters or connectors that are compatible with your particular hard drive type. 

  • Types of Connectors

So if the motherboard of your desktop does not support a USB connection then, you’ll have to get your hands on a USB connector or adapter. You can purchase them online or at your local hardware stores as well. 

Some of the most common connectors are IDE to USB, IDE to SATA, IDE to IDE, SATA to USB, SATA to SATA, and SSD to IDE. To find the right adapter for making the connection, take a look at the hard drive specifications and get a compatible adapter for it. 

You’ll most likely be using a SATA to USB connector for this method because laptops today feature SATA hard drives mostly. But to be on the safe side, check your system requirements before you proceed. 


Before starting, switch off your PC and laptop to ensure safety. Now on to the method:

  1. Remove the hard drive from your laptop.
  2. Take an adapter ideal for your PC and laptop hard drive connection.
  3. Now plug in the hard drive to the adapter.
  4. Next, connect the adapter with the USB port of your PC. (Also, make sure to purchase an adapter compatible with the type of your desktop’s USB port (Type C, USB 3.0 or other).
  5. Now that you’re done with making the connection, you can locate the connected hard drive in the BIOS of your desktop. 
  6. Boot the hard drive by configuring settings in the BIOS. 
  7. Finally, you can access the contents of your laptop’s hard drive in your PC.

Now while this connection is easy to form, there are a few drawbacks to it. For instance, 

  • You’ll have to deal with the slow data sync of the hard drive because it cannot function at its full capacity. 
  • Also, with an external connection, you’ll have to boot the hard drive in the BIOS yourself as it doesn’t start functioning on its own after the connection is made. 
  • Lastly, if your hard drive is eSATA or mSATA type then, you’ll have a hard time finding a connector for it. 
  1. Direct Connection With The Motherboard 

In case if making an external connection is not feasible for you, you can try making a direct connection with the motherboard of your PC. You simply have to install the hard drive of your laptop into your desktop’s CPU. 

The size of a laptop and PC hard drive vary of course. The hard drive of a laptop is usually around 2 to 2.5 inches while the ones in the PC measure around 3.5 inches or more. Now you might be wondering how exactly the laptop’s hard drive fits into the desktop unit. 

What you need:

First off, you need to get your hands on a mounting unit according to the size of your laptop’s hard drive (mostly 2.5”). In some desktop units, the mounting case is built-in so you won’t have to do the hassle of purchasing if that’s the case with your PC.


Moving on, let’s see how you can directly connect the laptop hard drive to your desktop computer. 

  1. Open up your CPU unit.
  2. Mount the laptop’s hard drive in the mounting case. (In case your CPU doesn’t have a built-in mounting socket) 
  3. Insert the mounted drive into your desktop unit.
  4. Once you’ve installed the hard drive into your desktop unit, connect the SATA cable of the motherboard to the hard drive. 
  5. Next, make a power connection to the hard drive.
  6. That’s it, you’re done at this point.
  7. Now, you can start your desktop and access your laptop’s hard drive.

Note: In case you cannot locate your laptop’s hard drive in your PC (happens rarely btw), check for settings in the BIOS and manually boot up the hard drive. 

Now even with this method, you have to open up the CPU unit and do the hassle of installing the hard drive in it but it does give you some promising advantages in contrast to the previous method. 

  • The connection is fast and the drive can function at its maximum speed and potential.
  • You can transfer the data a lot faster than the USB adapter
  • You don’t have to manually boot up the hard drive in BIOS, in most cases.

Look Out for These Things:

  • Make sure that the operating system of your laptop and PC is compatible. In case of a different operating system, you’ll face a lot of problems while connecting the hard drive to the PC and accessing the data. This happens because booting up hard drives with two different OS can cause the process to become complex and unfeasible. 
  • Find adapters or connectors compatible with your desktop system and hard drive.
  • The IDE connectors should be 2.5 or above unless you want terrible consequences. 
  • Use data recovery software for best results in case you’re recovering data.


The best part about connecting your laptop’s hard drive to PC is that you can recover data from a dead laptop or simply use the hard drive as additional storage in your PC. While these aforementioned methods are the most feasible and common, you can also try out other methods like using a dock station or a removable case to connect your laptop’s hard drive to the desktop. Just make sure to keep the compatibility of the adapters as well as the systems for a successful connection.

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